Tuesday, November 02, 2010

'Why does God allow cruel things to happen?


Chinese author Lijia Zhang has doubts about the existence of God, even though she goes into a temple to pray now and then

Photo: Lijia Zhang with her daughters

By Shevlin Sebastian

When Chinese author Lijia Zhang feels troubled, she goes to the Rooster Crawling temple in Nanjing. “It is a Buddhist nunnery,” says Lijia, who was on a brief visit to Thiruvananthapuram. “I feel at peace there.” When Lijia closes her eyes to pray, the image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy comes to her mind.

“She is a graceful woman, full of compassion and kindness,” says Lijia. “She has an oval-shaped face and holds a pink lotus in her hand. Even though Buddhism was imported from India, the goddess looks Chinese.”

But despite these practices, Lijia does not believe in any religion. Like most skeptics, she asks where God was, when the most destructive earthquake in the 20th century took place, in Tangshan, China, on July 28, 1976. More than 2 lakh people died, including Lijia's cousin. “If there is a God how could He allow such things to happen?” she says. “Why is He so cruel? Why does He allow good people to die like this?”

Lijia says that when you look at the concept of God rationally, there is no evidence that He exists. One reason for Lijia’s doubts was because Communism was forced down the throat of the people for many decades. “As a result I am cautious about blindly believing in any organised religion,” she says. But thanks to her curiosity, she has read many religious books including the Bible. “I find it difficult to believe in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary,” she says. “It lacks logic.”

What gave an impetus to her disbelief was when she read Richard Dawkins' international best-seller, 'The God Delusion'. Dawkins says, “There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else (parents in the case of children, God in the case of adults) has a responsibility to give your life meaning.”

However, Lijia says that if she finally accepts any religion it would most probably be Buddhism, thanks to the faith shown by her grandmother, Wan Huizhen. “She suffered so much in her life,” says Lijia. “She was orphaned as a child, and was forced into prostitution for many years.”

Wan was a victim of the Nanjing Massacre. In December 13, 1937, the Japanese overran the city, and killed lakhs of Chinese, and raped around 80,000 women.

“My grandmother saw it all,” says Lijia. “But throughout her life, she remained a Buddhist and always believed in the goodness of human beings. Her faith was the moral force in her life.”

Lijia admits that her lack of faith has made it difficult to face the misfortunes of life. “Five years ago, when my husband suddenly left me, I was devastated,” she says. “If I believed in God, it would have been easier for me to cope with the sorrow.” Instead, she had to rely on friends and on writing to get over her tragedy.

(The New Indian Express, Kochi)

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